Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Special

The trailer for "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari."

[I saw this for the first time while a member of a film society in college. It was stunning.]

For Tonight's Sing-Along

All the lyrics you need are here.

Microsoft: A Glimpse Ahead

Cultural Offering has an impressive video of Microsoft's vision of the future.

Absolutely fantastic and yet doable, assuming we don't spend ourselves into oblivion or get blown up by religious fanatics.

Entertainment Break

The trailer for "Restoration."

Lessons from the Practice

Attorney Michael P. Maslanka has started a series of posts - updated every Monday - about the lessons gleaned from 30 years of practice. Here are the ones to date:

"Get the Facts"

"Stay in the Moment"

"Show, Don't Tell"

First Paragraph

In the two years after October 1938 the fortunes of Winston Churchill underwent the most dramatic reversal of any politician of modern times. At the time of Munich, Churchill was dismissed as a warmonger and a has-been, and many viewed his career to that date as a catalogue of the failures of an over-ambitious adventurer. Yet twenty-four months later he was the national saviour, personifying Britain's defiance of Hitlerism and enjoying almost unanimous public approval.

- From Eminent Churchillians by Andrew Roberts


Eclecticity shows us a clean, well lighted place to blog. [This is part of a very enjoyable series.]

Political Films

The trailers for:

"The Ides of March"
"The Last Hurrah"
"Julius Caesar"
"Primary Colors"
"Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
"The Candidate"

The British Resistance

These concealed bunkers, or Operational Bases (OBs), were dug out by Auxiliary Unit members, or in some cases created by the Royal Engineers. Accessed via a camouflaged entrance, they generally consisted of a corrugated-iron main chamber fitted out with bunks, a cooking stove and provisions to sustain a patrol for up to a month, as well as a smaller secondary chamber and an emergency escape tunnel.

Some were more elaborate, with chimneys incorporated into hollow tree trunks or spring-loaded entrance hatches designed to look like woodpiles, while others existed in disused mines or caves. In Kent, the architect of some of the most ingenious bunker designs was none other than Captain Peter Fleming, older brother of James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

Click here for the story on Britain's underground army in the Second World War.


Quote of the Day

Never worry about theory as long as the machinery does what it's supposed to do.

- Robert Heinlein

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pick It Up?

Should you let that dreaded call go to voice mail?

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project
examines the pros and cons.

Don't Move

At Unhappy Hipsters:

The main problem with their houseboat on the Gowanus Canal was weight distribution.

Deranged Vendetta

From a 2000 issue of Outside magazine, a story by "Survivor" rejectee Bill Vaughn of his efforts at revenge. [Be sure to click near the top of the article for the subsequent pages.] An excerpt:

Because I am a vindictive and self-indulgent man, I am given to all manner of fits and childish acts. But this deranged vendetta, even for me, was majorly over the top.

In the bow of a rushing, 35-foot fishing dory, wedged against the boat's hardwood ribs to prevent the whitecaps from hurling me into the South China Sea, I was loading one-quart Glad-Lock Zipper Bags with miniature bottles of Bombay Sapphire gin, one bottle per bag, along with a snotty personal note. When each unit was complete I inflated it with a puff of breath, sealed it, and tossed it angrily into the surf building just off our starboard side. It would drift briefly, I figured, before washing up on the surprisingly empty, agonizingly close beaches of Pulau Tiga, a wet, jungly island twice the size of Central Park, seven miles off Borneo's northwestern coast.

Shaking the Writing Biz

At Steven Pressfield's blog, Shawn Coyne on how the writing business changed:

The only other real stream of revenue for writers was short stories. Fitzgerald and Hemingway would bang these out whenever the wolf knocked at their door. And those two had a lot of feral visitors. At one point during the writing of The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald found himself flat broke. So he steeled himself from the bottle and locked himself in a room above the garage of his rented home in Great Neck, NY. (Interesting how the desperate George and Myrtle Wilson lived above their garage in The Great Gatsby, eh?)

First Paragraph

October 12 was a good day for a killing. It had rained all week, but on this Friday, after the church fair, our good Lord was in a kindlier mood. Though autumn had already come, the sun was shining brightly on that part of Bavaria they call the Pfaffenwinkel - the priests' corner - and merry noise and laughter could be heard from the town. Drums rumbled, cymbals clanged, and somewhere a fiddle was playing. The aroma of deep-fried doughnuts and roasted meat drifted down to the foul-smelling tanners' quarter. Yes, it was going to be a lovely execution.

- From The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch

Miscellaneous and Fast

Still publishing: The Tombstone Epitaph.
The trailer for "The City of Lost Children."
Wally Bock:
Igniting imagination.
The trailer for "
Bell, Book and Candle."
Victor Davis Hanson on
railing against reality.
Can you get excited about a pencil sharpener?
The trailer for "Master and Commander."
Michael Lewis dissects California in Vanity Fair.
The trailer for "The Firm."

The Evolution of Team Meetings

First Team Meeting
Attitude: "This is an exciting project and I'm glad to be here."
Diplomacy: "Thanks, Ed. That's the sort of thinking we need here."
Open-mindedness: "Did Carol get a chance to talk?"
Unspoken: "I don't know this subject very well but I can learn a great deal from the others."

Fourth Team Meeting
Attitude: "I'm beginning to wonder if we all have the same goal."
Diplomacy: "If you tell that groupthink joke again, Ed, I'm going to scream."
Open-mindedness: "We already considered that option, Carol."
Unspoken: "I'm doing all of the work!"

Seventh Team Meeting
Attitude: "Listen up people! We've got 24 hours to turn in a report and you're arguing about donuts."
Diplomacy: "With all due respect, Ed, that's one of the dumbest things I've ever heard."
Open-mindedness: "If we can put duct-tape over Carol's mouth for five minutes, we might get something done."
Unspoken: "How did I get roped into this project?"

Quote of the Day

There is no mistake; there has been no mistake; and there shall be no mistake.

- The Duke of Wellington

Friday, October 28, 2011

Best Cities, Indeed

Whenever someone compiles a list of the world's best cities, it won't be long before the ranking is challenged and omissions are cited.

Santa Fe is ranked higher than Paris?

Art or Scam?

Art Contrarian on the finalists for the Turner Prize. [Be sure to click to see them.] An excerpt:

My problem is that the term "art" has been watered down (Duchamp's legacy) to the point where anything can be called "art." But if anything runs the risk of being "art," then art is nothing special and the term becomes meaningless.

Authors of Our Own Lives

Kurt Vonnegut once remarked that the secret of writing fiction is to make the reader really want something and then take it away. You find that in life, of course, but the person who is taking it away is usually not some outside author or director but the main character.

I knew a candidate for an executive position who was bright and skilled but prone to self-sabotage. Just when the goal was in sight, he'd do something weird. Often, he would survive the cut regardless of the problem but in other cases he was sunk by his own actions. If I had been managing his career, I would have suggested a trip to an isolated cabin two weeks before any selection decision.

Those of us who self-sabotage, however, usually do so on an incremental basis instead of in one dramatic event. We acquire a collection of bad habits that eventually drag us down. In some respects, they resemble those dreams in which you discover yourself back in school, the final exam is today, and yet you've somehow forgotten to attend class all semester.

I suspect that many of our incremental blunders stem from faulty assumptions and not from a hidden intent to harm our careers or relationships. For example, if we assume that long-term thinking is admirable, we may not catch how frequently it causes us to miss or trip over things that are right in front of us. If we are impatient for achievement and regard that impatience as a commendable sense of urgency, we may not see how it drains pleasure from the processes that will eventually lead to achievement and how the depletion invites depression. As I've written here before, our vices may hide within our virtues.

If I were to urge one task for anyone experiencing career frustration, it would be to examine the assumptions that have governed daily life. You are the author and you may need to rewrite the story.

Petty Tyranny

A U.S. Supreme Court justice recounted over cocktails a while ago his travails with his hometown zoning board. He wanted to build an addition onto his house, containing what the plans described as a home office, but he met truculent and lengthy resistance. This is a residential area, a zoning official blustered—no businesses allowed. The judge mildly explained that he would not be running a business from the new room; he would be using it as a study. Well, challenged the suspicious official, what business are you in? I work for the government, the justice replied. Okay, the official finally conceded—grudgingly, as if conferring an immense and special discretionary favor; we’ll let it go by this time. But, he snapped in conclusion, don’t ever expletive-deleted with us again.

Isn’t that sort of petty tyranny? I asked.

Yes, the justice replied; there’s a lot of it going around.

Read the rest of Myron Magnet's City Journal article here.

Quote of the Day

We often make people pay dearly for what we think we give them.

- Comtesse Diane

Thursday, October 27, 2011

iPhone versus Android

FutureLawyer, who likes to tap-dance on the edge of controversy, points out confessions of a former iPhone user.

[I'll refrain from posting a photo of my cell phone. One of its advanced features is buttons with numbers on them.]

First Paragraph

'How can a hundred people be led by a single person?' That was one of the essay questions in my Cambridge University entrance exam and, although it has long fascinated me, it has taken me twenty years to get round to trying to answer it. Yet this question lies at the heart of history and civilisation. If one person could not command one hundred others there would be no wars, but neither could there have been any cathedrals, space exploration or philharmonic orchestras. The ability of one person to make a hundred others do his bidding is the basic building block upon which all collective human endeavor is based, for better or worse. So how does it happen?

- From Hitler & Churchill by Andrew Roberts

Greatest Hits

Many thanks to Cultural Offering for posting his collection of "Execupundit's greatest hits."

Given the consistently high quality of his blog, they were in very good company.

Steyn's Case for Pessimism

Mark Steyn writing in Commentary:

The United States government currently spends one-fifth of a billion dollars that it doesn’t have every hour, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year including Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Ramadan. A fifth of a billion dollars every single hour—so the $7 billion that John Boehner calls “a real enforceable cut for financial year 2012” represents what the government of the United States currently borrows every 37 hours. In the time between the Friday announcement of the plan and the Sunday morning talk shows’ discussion of it, the government borrowed back every dime of those painstakingly negotiated savings.

Be sure to read the entire article.

Drawing Cat Woman

Art Contrarian
looks at
the art of Adam Hughes.

41 Ways to Create Problems for Yourself

  1. Wait for inspiration to strike.

  2. Focus solely on the short or long term.

  3. Don't be in the moment.

  4. Pack your day with distractions.

  5. Make a list of your uncompleted projects and give it frequent glances.

  6. Take no joy in the process.

  7. Fail to cultivate patience.

  8. Keep comparing yourself to others.

  9. Watch a lot of television.

  10. Seek fairness instead of opportunity.

  11. Don't examine your assumptions.

  12. Treat people as objects.

  13. Skip your homework.

  14. Only read and listen to people with whom you agree.

  15. Neglect relationships.

  16. Don't count your blessings.

  17. Believe that the rules don't apply to you.

  18. Ignore your intuition.

  19. Rarely have "quiet time."

  20. Link your self-worth to material items.

  21. Forget what it's like to be on the outside.

  22. Associate with those who hate, deride, and demean.

  23. Use sloppy language.

  24. Become smug.

  25. Never sweat.

  26. Hide from nature.

  27. Forget history.

  28. Be quick to anger.

  29. Stop learning.

  30. Stop dreaming.

  31. Believe that 2 + 2 = 5.

  32. Fall prey to regrets and envy.

  33. Be too busy to help others.

  34. Reveal all.

  35. Underestimate evil.

  36. Follow fads.

  37. Let your courage atrophy.

  38. Forget the incremental.

  39. Have hope as a strategy.

  40. Adopt coarse mannerisms.

  41. Keep running at full speed.

Quote of the Day

You can't imagine the extra work I had when I was a god.

- Emperor Hirohito

Monday, October 24, 2011

Off the Grid

I'll be off the grid for a few days to handle some pressing projects and to recharge. Please take care and check back.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekend Treat

The trailer for "Wonder Boys."

My favorite line from the film is when the literary agent (played by Robert Downey Jr.) mentions that his job is in danger because management has adopted a new paradigm. Michael Douglas asks "What's that?" and Downey replies, "Competence."

A Sign for Your Desk

Please Give Me
Your Third Paragraph First!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Sparta's Fall

Historian Victor Davis Hanson is now a novelist.

Trouble in Paradise

This is a drag, man. They're going after the drums!

First Paragraph

At the first gesture of morning, flies began stirring. Inman's eyes and the long wound at his neck drew them, and the sound of their wings and the touch of their feet were soon more potent than a yardful of roosters in rousing a man to wake. So he came to yet one more day in the hospital ward. He flapped the flies away with his hands and looked across the foot of his bed to an open triple-hung window. Ordinarily he could see to the red road and the oak tree and the low brick wall. And beyond them to a sweep of fields and flat piney woods that stretched to the western horizon. The view was a long one for the flatlands, the hospital having been built on the only swell within eyeshot. But it was too early for a vista. The window might as well have been painted grey.

- From Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

PC and the Boy Scouts

Kathleen Arnn examines the old and new versions of the Boy Scouts' handbook and her conclusions are not encouraging. An excerpt:

The old handbook spoke proudly of the chivalric tradition; the new apologizes for the antiquated example of the knights. It sandwiches a few cursory paragraphs on moral virtue between a lengthy discussion of drugs and alcohol and a section on sexual responsibility. Moral choices are reduced to healthy choices. Doing the courageous thing becomes equivalent to refusing a cigarette at a party.

Quote of the Day

No one can go on being a rebel too long without turning into an autocrat.

- Lawrence Durrell

Friday, October 21, 2011

Greatest Letter to the Editor Ever

Check it out here.


Three Problems

"I only had three problems with him. He was inept, deceptive, and he lacked style."

"He lacked style?"

"Yeah, if you're going to be incompetent and untrustworthy, you'd better have some style. Many a rogue has built a career on that. You keep them around for entertainment. Some might call it charm."

"You have far more patience than I do for incompetent weasels."

"Well, that's part of my style."

Malware Prevention

DarteData has an intriguing tip on how to reduce your chances of being infected with malware.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Chief Executive: Raising sales force effectiveness.
Wally Bock: Leadership bit by bit.
Trailer for "The Red Pony."
Nicely done: The classic Citibank commercial with Vincent Price.
FutureLawyer on the Gmail makeover.
Coen Bros: Trailer for "Blood Simple."
Steve Jobs gives some political advice.
New York Post: Dream Hotel harassment case.

Lock the Doors and Keep the Lights On

As Halloween approaches, here is a question: What is the scariest novel you've ever read?

My own nominees, in order of scare-inducement, would be:

The Mist by Stephen King
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
Dracula by Bram Stoker


Farewell Party

A friend once told me about a farewell party he'd attended at a corporation. The party, a pretty informal affair, was held in a lunch room. A few streamers were strung. Someone had brought in a sheet cake. There were some joke gifts. The mood was light but it changed a tad when the guest of honor arrived, took a look around, said, "I think you all are a bunch of bastards" and then walked out.

Well, let's not mark that down as a success.

I've never seen anything that dramatic at a farewell party but I've attended retirement parties where the overall atmosphere could inflict instant depression. Retirement parties, of course, have a higher bar. In the back of many a mind is "A person is leaving the organization after years of service and the best that is done is this?" If you're not going to do something stylish, it would be better to bypass a single event and try some alternatives.

My suggestions:

Designate a Retirement Week for the individual and stretch out some scheduled and private farewell sessions so the folks from The Lollipop Guild and other units can come by and tell the person, in sincere and low-key tones, just what the person has meant.

Set aside some time so the person can be interviewed about the job itself and the nuggets of wisdom that he or she would pass on to a successor. [Give them time to collect their thoughts before the interview.]

Have some public display of their tenure, something primitive and tribal. I'm serving as president of a community organization. After being passed the gavel, I noticed that the initials of previous presidents were carved in it. That's a small but nice gesture.

My point is it would help to get beyond the bland unless bland is what the person wants and make no mistake, bland is sometimes desirable. I knew a very successful executive who mentioned that he purposely furnished his office so it could be stripped of anything personal within two minutes. He did, however, generously convey the lessons he had learned before he walked out the door.

That is another thought to bear in mind. When a good person leaves, you are losing the irreplaceable. You refill positions but you never replace people. Each is unique. Good service and companionship deserve proper attention.

Occupy the Library!

A needed message at Cultural Offering.

A Sign for Your Desk

What is obvious to you

is not to others.

Quote of the Day

Do not keep a dog and bark yourself.

- Proverb

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Great Moments in Advertising

This is not your average beer commercial.

[I think I saw some bloggers in the audience.]

What's That in the Sky?

When all other subjects fade, a blogger can always turn to Shatner.

Miscellaneous and Fast

Cake Wrecks: Why cakes of pregnant women are inadvisable.
Eclecticity: Where does he find this stuff?
Jay Nordlinger on the comedy of Felonious Munk.
White Collar Fraud blog: "
It takes one to know one."
The Telegraph on
the death of the Libya's dictator.
The trailer for "Chicken Run."
Which candidate has the most cash from Wall Street?
Tom Peters on calculating the best baseball team manager.
Anderson Layman's Blog has some classic Bob Seger.

Life Edit

At Matthew May's site, writer/designer Graham Hill giving a thought-provoking TED talk on the
freedom of less stuff.

Being of a rather monkish nature, I have great sympathy for the stuff reduction philosophy and yet also worry that many who embrace it would not balk at coercion; e.g., "I (or the government) will decide what you really need and all else must go."

I find a certain liberation in reducing the amount of things, if only because they can become great distractions, but those who like the clutter of possessions should embrace it and not apologize for their approach.

Each to his own.

Projects and Habits

We practice democracy with our personal projects but when our habits are in place, we slavishly obey a dictatorship.

Make something a project and there is a beginning and an end. If the task is demanding, we can guarantee that the end will come soon because we cast and count the votes. Our rationalizations for lax behavior are without limit. Even when there is no time off, the project eventually ends.

Once past the border guards of a habit, however, we find ourselves in a dictatorship where escape is difficult and feelings seldom matter. We follow a rigid routine and do the required chores regardless of how we feel.

That's why so many of the items which we wish to achieve are best accomplished if we make them habits instead of projects. With habits we are restricting ourselves, but with projects we may be fooling ourselves.

Quote of the Day

It is a general error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.

- Edmund Burke

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Call me Sherlock. I studied this sign and know exactly where Nicholas Bate went.


Cultural Offering has done the heavy lifting and assembled a slew of Halloween film trailers to get you ready for the holiday.

"Heart of Dark Chocolate"

This incredibly rare and expensive chocolate was produced by the venerable firm of Felchlin, which claimed that it was unique in the world, made from an ancient strain of cacao native to the Bolivian Amazon—i.e., wild cacao, au naturel, unmolested by millennia of botanical tinkering. It hit me with an intense nuttiness, but without the slightest hint of bitterness, a combination I'd never experienced. Aromatics burst in my sinuses. Citrus and vanilla. The flavor dove into a deep, rich place, and then, just as I thought I had a handle on it, the bottom fell out and it dove some more. That might sound ridiculous, but I've spent an inordinate amount of time "researching" the best chocolate in the world, geeking out on it like the most obnoxious sommelier, and this was something entirely new.

Read the rest of the
September 13, 2010 Outside magazine article here.

First Paragraph

Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, "whores, pimps, gamblers, and sons of bitches," by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, "Saints and angels and martyrs and holy men," and he would have meant the same thing.

- From Cannery Row by John Steinbeck

Telling Euro Fortune

The German Finance Ministry is handing out fortune cookies. [You can't make this stuff up.]

Remember the old Woody Allen joke about the German-Chinese restaurant: "An hour later you're hungry for power." Anyway, what could be some great messages?

"Beware of Greeks seeking bail-outs."
"Bring back Ludwig Erhard."
"There is a man named Berlusconi in your future."

The New Athens?

Historian Victor Davis Hanson
on lessons America might draw from the funeral oration of Pericles. An excerpt:

In truth, it would be hard to imagine an oration more disturbing to the modern American elite’s sensibilities than Pericles’ majestic funeral oration delivered in the winter of 431/30 B.C. at the end of the first campaigning season of the Peloponnesian War—a masterful summary some 2,500 years old of what once made imperial democratic Athens great and why, in its darkest hours, it would prevail. The unabashed confidence of Pericles in his own civilization and national ethos, and the eloquence by which he conveyed it, were once gold standards for unapologetic Western democratic rhetoricians. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill both emulated the speech’s reverence for ancestry, tradition, and cultural exceptionalism as a way of explaining why a confident America or Britain, in extremis, deserved its influence and should express it openly beyond its borders.

Entertainment Break

Johnny Carson chatting with Vincent Price.

Robespierre on Line One

Back by popular demand.

Milton Friedman: "Where are you going to find these angels who are going to organize society for us?"

Happiness Focus

Gretchen Rubin at The Happiness Project interviews Andy Borowitz:

Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?

When I think globally about whether or not I’ve accomplished enough with my life, or whether I have done as much as other people, that’s a pretty good prescription for being unhappy. A better approach for me is to focus on the day at hand and try to make the most of it.

The Revival

The call was unexpected. I'd talked with the client a good two to three years ago about the project but then they got busy with other issues and the matter died. I conducted some related research because the subject was of interest and I felt that at some point my work would pay off but then...nothing.

It is now revived. There are some twists and new factors but the project that had been pushed to the back of the storage room is out on the desk, ready to be dusted off and made exciting. Some work that was done for other clients in the interim has sharpened our perspective. We can spot aspects that might have been missed had we started when originally planned.

As with so much of life, you need to be patient and ready. What may appear to be lost is not really lost.

It is simply coming by a different path.

Quote of the Day

One pearl is better than a whole necklace of potatoes.

- Etienne Decroux

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bench Strength

I am frequently reminded of the fantastic "bench strength" we have in this country. It is not unusual to encounter people in a variety of jobs and locations who could perform well in high office and who are probably far more capable than the leaders of many nations.

Miscellaneous and Fast

First Paragraph

When a fresh-faced guy in a Chevy offered him a lift, Parker told him to go to hell. The guy said, "Screw you, buddy," yanked his Chevy back into the stream of traffic, and roared on down to the tollbooths. Parker spat in the right hand-lane, lit his last cigarette, and walked across the George Washington Bridge.

- From The Hunter by Richard Stark

Bate's Lists

On my to-do list: Read Nicholas Bate every morning:

'To do' lists tend to drive the urgent, the here-and-now, the 'have-to-do's. You need a master list: that focuses on what you want to do, too.

Art Break: Blumenschein

Art Contrarian
looks at
the work of Ernest Blumenschein.

Keep On Keeping On

Steven Pressfield recalls his years in the wilderness:

When I was living out of the back of my ’65 Chevy van, there was a kind of dude I used to run into from time to time. A hard-core road character, burnt brown by the sun, unbathed in months, living on dimes a day. I probably met and spent time with a dozen guys like this in places like Texas and Louisiana, northern California, Washington state—giving them rides, working day-labor jobs, staying up all night talking. They carried guitars and no-hope dreams. I used to ask myself, listening to their tunes in a stoned haze some place that I could never remember twelve hours later, “Am I as over the edge as these guys? Am I heading as straight down the tubes as they are?”

Too Big to Fail and the Rule of Law

Too big to fail is too big to allow, reads one hand-lettered sign on the east side of Zuccotti Park overlooking lower Broadway. Good point. As a few protesters (not all) understand, the problem with “the banks” isn’t that they exist, but that they’re isolated from the consistent rule of law. The bizarre irony, then, is that five weeks in, Zuccotti Park’s live-in campers are behaving more and more like the banks against which they are railing.

Read the rest of
Nicole Gelinas here.

Quote of the Day

I told you I was sick.

- Epitaph of B. P. Roberts

Monday, October 17, 2011

Time Travel with Cellini

I've had The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini around the house for several years.

Purchased at a used bookstore after a gushing reference to its quality, the book was moved from shelf to shelf until the time was right. [I was a little wary. So many books fail to match the hype.]

I read three chapters last night and so far the high reputation is intact. Moreso than with many memoirs, this is a form of time travel.

If you are interested in being transported to the Italy of the Medici family, check it out.

The Woe of Publishers

Yes, the book publishing game is changing and, in many cases, it couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch.

Heroic Lives

At Anderson Layman's Blog, a post to remember:

When I was about half-way through my liberal arts college years, I made, one day, a snide remark to my Dad about our "materialistic life style." Not angrily, but very wise to the ways of youth, he merely said, "Ok. I'll tell you what. If you are willing to go to the local community college instead of Denison, I will pay your tuition and donate the difference in the cost between the two to the charity of your choice." I believe that is known as calling a bluff. It was not my finest hour, but I did learn a lot about my Dad, myself, and what the real world is like.

Control and Achievement

Two key components of happiness in the workplace: control and achievement.

When control is not present, fear walks in the door and all of the motivational practices in the world mean little if achievement is not experienced.

Recall your happiest days at work. Those two were probably your companions.

In Hiding

Working on several consulting proposals. Sending notes to clients regarding classes. Posting new workshops. Ruthlessly tossing out files related to something that once had promise. [Will I regret that later? Perhaps, but they go nonetheless.]

Background music for the day: Soundtracks from "Lawrence of Arabia"; "Amelie"; The Thin Red Line"; "The Cowboys" plus lots of Copland.

The Restaurant Business

Cultural Offering has "The Cook" with Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton. Brilliant stuff.

Quote of the Day

The Universe has as many centers as there are living beings in it.

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Saturday, October 15, 2011

First Paragraph

What would you do right now if you learned that you were going to die in ten minutes? Would you race upstairs and light that Marlboro you've been hiding in your sock drawer since the Ford administration? Would you waltz into your boss's office and present him with a detailed description of his personal defects? Would you drive out to that steakhouse near the new mall and order a T-bone, medium rare, with an extra side of the really bad cholesterol? Hard to say, of course, but of all the things you might do in your final ten minutes, it's a pretty safe bet that few of them are things you actually did today.

- From Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness

Rome without the Riots

Every time I hear this I want to ride a Vespa through Rome.

Of course,
this does the same thing.

Small Things

"What are you upset about? It was only a small thing."

"You are entirely correct. It was a small thing. It would have taken less than ten minutes and perhaps just five of his time. That's part of what bothers me."

"I'm sure it was not meant as anything negative."

"Oh, I know there were no negative intentions, but his absence could have been significant if we had failed to get a quorum to vote on the much more important issue. If he won't do the small, how can I rely upon him for the large?"

"He wouldn't see it that way. He would argue that he dedicates his time to the important matters and some slips in the minor ones should be ignored or forgiven."

"I agree, nitpicking would make no sense, but I don't want him to make a habit of overlooking the small matters. There are days when we can't really tell what is minor and what is vital. I'm also concerned about spill-over. It's the old line about a good gardener never reserving a plot for weeds."

"So he's forgiven?"

"Certainly, just so it never happens again."

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

Up in the Air"
"Grizzly Man"
"Love Actually"

Quote of the Day

Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.

- Saul Bellow

Friday, October 14, 2011

Self-Induced Turbulence

Ricochet provides a Martini Shot audio clip of Rob Long talking about deadlines and the TV biz.

[I daily expect a voicemail regarding a casting call for a sitcom based on management consultants. I know, the very idea of a consultant show brings a smile to your face. We've known for hilarity.]

L'Amour on Writing

Pulp Serenade
some interesting observations by Louis L'Amour on words and writing.

When I was young and far more sophisticated, I avoided the L'Amour books. Since then I've read a few and discovered why the old guy was - and is - so popular. He knew how to tell a good story.

The Army's Greatest Invention?

At Cool Tools, high praise for
this extraordinary tool. I may still have one around the house.

The Basic Basics

post at Cultural Offering on decision fatigue sparked several thoughts. One, of course, was on the huge role that fatigue plays in our lives. If at all possible, we should avoid making major decisions when tired. You can see top management teams that start making "unforced errors" simply because they are worn out.

Another thought related to a remark that Dennis Prager once made about the need to study the importance and impact of boredom. We can wander into new territory because we are bored. The results may be good, bad or neutral but I'd suspect that most are bad.

This in turn leads to the question of what other commonly overlooked items deserve more attention. Envy, pride, indifference, rivalry, ambition, and comfort quickly come to mind. Think of how each can boost or erode careers and happiness.

Vora on Following Up

Tanmay Vora has an intriguing post on the virtues of not following up. An excerpt:

The need to constantly follow-up only means that people in the team are not clear of their priorities (or priorities are not clearly communicated). It also means they are not disciplined and accountable.

Time spent on following up is never estimated when you delegate the work. It is not accounted for, and hence results in further delays. The act of following up negatively impacts both parties – the one who is following up and the one being followed up.

Quote of the Day

If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.

- Katherine Hepburn

Thursday, October 13, 2011

First Paragraph

The King yawned as one of his valets threw back the heavy brocade curtains that surrounded the royal bed on four sides. The light that streamed through the tall casement windows now flooded the entire room. The King rose at once. After he had said his morning prayers, the elaborate process of dressing him began. First, one of his valets shaved him. Then, one at a time, each nobleman who had earned the privilege of waiting on the King handed him the article that was officially his to present. One might hand him his stockings, another his satin breeches, yet another his garters. Once he had been dressed, the King's hair was carefully curled and powdered.

- From The Rights of Man, The Reign of Terror by Susan Banfield

If in Doubt, Throw It Out

Absolutely true: Tim Berry on a time-tested way to reverse a bad day.

Riot Response: L.A. and London

L.A.P.D. Officer Jack Dunphy on the London riots. An excerpt:

In one sense, London’s ineffective response to the violence on the first three nights is more understandable than was the LAPD’s failure to control rioting in 1992. L.A.’s riot came at the conclusion of a long and contentious criminal trial, the outcome of which clearly would placate or enrage segments of the city’s population. The police in Los Angeles had weeks, if not months, to prepare for trouble. Yet like most officers at the time, I received no training in crowd-control techniques; nor was I instructed on any planned response to violence. When violence did break out, the ten of us thrown together that night adopted tactics on the fly, and I was fortunate to have a supervisor who could think on his feet and not wait for orders from a chain of command in disarray.

Entertainment Break

The trailers for:

"Hart's War"
"Waiting for Guffman"
"The Mission"

Political Performance Skills

It is important to understand that in a great many jobs, good performance involves various political skills, such as:

  • Pleasing community groups.

  • Avoiding any complications with the board of directors.

  • Staying out of the news.

  • Giving and sharing credit.

  • Not engaging in interdepartmental wars.

  • Keeping staff members within certain boundaries.

  • Using constant discretion in language and actions.

Fumble any of these and all other performance achievements may be neutralized. Some points may seem minor, but they have the potential to become major within seconds. They can be simply summarized: Be a solution, not a problem.

Thoughts in the Wake of a Computer Virus

If the authorities were able to arrest and convict the creators and distributors of malware, adware, and various computer viruses, what would an appropriate punishment entail?

  1. Waterboarding.

  2. Reality TV.

  3. The Roman punishment of placing the bound offender in a burlap bag with a rooster, a snake, and a dog and then throwing the bag into the river.

Quote of the Day

We are an impossibility in an impossible universe.

- Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Fending off a computer virus. Bear with me.

Admit It When...

  • You don't know

  • You're lost

  • You're ill

  • The new employee isn't working out

  • The brilliant idea has fizzled

  • Additional resources won't make a difference

  • The other side is right

  • You need more time

  • Something doesn't feel right

  • The jargon is confusing

  • The numbers don't add up


Cultural Offering points to a helpful article on avoiding negativity.

It reminds me of the old Zig Ziglar line about the person who brightens a room by leaving it.

World Changer

Here are 10 ways that Steve Jobs changed the world.

Quote of the Day

Quality (meaning getting everyone to do what they have agreed to do) is the skeletal structure of the organization; finance is the nourishment; and relationships are the soul. All of this comes together in what I call Completeness. Management has learned that they cannot delegate the policies and decisions of finance, and they must learn the same about the other two. Executives spend most of their time on finance and turn the rest over to functional professionals whose main concern is to protect their own turf and pride. It is hard to find any of these who are more interested in the company as a whole than in the success of their own functions. It is as if they feel they have to get re-elected all the time. In the twenty-first century, management will not have the latitude to fail regularly and still get on somehow, as is the pattern today.

- Philip B. Crosby, Completeness, 1992

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


An audience member just frowned. That means:
1. There's disagreement with what I just said.
2. I'm going to get a challenge in the question period.
3. The chairs are uncomfortable.
4. I'm boring them.
5. Something that has nothing to do with me.

It has been nine hours and there is no response to my email. That means:
1. She hates the idea.
2. She didn't get it.
3. She's upset with me.
4. I should have called.
5. She's busy.

He listened to our proposal and said he'll have to think about it. That means:
1. Forget about it.
2. We should have listed more benefits.
3. The folder was a turn-off.
4. Carson talked too much.
5. He'll have to think about it.

[Consider how often the correct interpretation is #5.]

The Ticking Euro Bomb

Spiegel has a three part series on the Euro crisis.

Kermit Break

Back by popular demand: "The Rainbow Connection."

Odds-and-Ends Day

This is an odds-and-ends day.

There is an assortment of items to be done: a training and coaching proposal to complete for a city government, a bunch of workshops to post on, scads of emails to send to clients and prospects, an ill friend to call, and a flu shot to get. In-between, there are thank-you notes to write, files to shred, and one marketing book to read, not to mention placing an order for some new clothes, and dropping off dry cleaning.

The main theme of the day relates to marketing some training workshops, but the ancillary chores gobble time and some spice is added by a dental problem that periodically brings in a memorable wave of pain. I see the dentist tomorrow. That's something to look forward to.

Louie Louie

I hope you are following the Music for Roctober series at Cultural Offering. It is a public service.

Quote of the Day

I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.

- Leo Rosten

Monday, October 10, 2011

First Paragraph

Marco da Cola, gentleman of Venice, respectfully presents his greetings. I wish to recount the journey which I made to England in the year 1663, the events which I witnessed and the people I met, these being, I hope, of some interest to those concerned with curiosity. Equally, I intend my account to expose the lies told by those whom I once numbered, wrongly, amongst my friends. I do not intend to pen a lengthy self-justification, or tell in detail how I was deceived and cheated out of renown which should rightfully be mine. My recital, I believe, will speak for itself.

- From An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears

Entertainment Break

The trailers for "The Bicycle Thief" and "Three Strangers."

The Importance of Negotiation Skills

SoxFirst has an amazing story about former Apple executive Ron Wayne . An excerpt:

The New York Daily News reports that he ended up selling his 10% stake for a total of $2,300 and going back to his old job at Atari. How much would that be worth now? About $35 billion. Not that he regrets it. "If I'd stayed with them, I was going to wind up the richest man in the cemetery, so I figured it was best for me to go off and do other things," Wayne said.

The Really Big Class

FutureLawyer on the future of online universities:

What if a Stanford Professor, known around the world as an expert in robotics, taught the same class to 130,000 students on the Internet for free that he offered to students on the Stanford campus paying $50,000 a year in tuition?

[Execupundit note: What if the class was taught for a reduced amount that would provide a generous profit to the professor and a bargain for the individual student? Is a - or its equivalent - deal for classes in our future?]

"A General Presence of Incivility"

Ms. Tzortzatos’s tolerance for the newcomers finally vanished when the sink was broken and fell to the floor. She installed a $200 lock on the bathroom to thwart nonpaying customers, angering the protesters.

“I’m looked at as the enemy of the people,” she said.

Read the rest of
The New York Times article here.

Pulp Fiction: 10 Favorites

Max Allan Collins lists his ten favorite detective novels.

Pulp Serenade]

Survival Essentials

The film "Contagion" raises an interesting question of what you would do if a highly contageous illness made grocery stores off-limits and the police force was unlikely to come when called.

I came home from the theater and pondered our sparse supplies. You don't need to subscribe to survivalist publications to wonder whether it might be wise to stock up on a few things.

Oddly enough, we were fairly well-supplied with water. (That's not always the case.) The food supply could have stretched to perhaps a week at most with only one meal a day. The weapons arsenal is not bad but could be expanded. We're a little low on barbed wire and animal traps.

So the larder needs food that can last a long time; the staples of life so to speak, such as beer, Pop Tarts, Jack Daniels, jerky, and Twinkies.

I haven't surfaced that list with the family. I'm sure they will approve.

Music for Monday

Alison Krauss and Union Station: "Man of Constant Sorrow."

Quote of the Day

If you'd like to know a man, find out what makes him mad.

- Cowboy saying